Starbucks’ Howard Schultz asks Washington to “come together” again—not that they ever listen

Howard Schultz issues a tall order to politicians.
Howard Schultz issues a tall order to politicians.
Image: Reuters/Yuriko Nakao
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Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is back on the campaign trail with his latest petition, urging the government to negotiate a solution to the shutdown. In an open letter to his employees, Schultz rhapsodized that “the American people have no platform with which to voice their frustration.”

Except for Starbucks, of course.

The company has launched a “Come Together” petition in ads online and in USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post. The campaign follows a three-day event where the chain offered a free tall coffee to any customer that bought someone else a drink, a symbolic gesture that was meant to show Washington it’s possible to work together.

This isn’t Schultz’s first empty political stunt—or even his first time using the “come together” slogan. Here’s what he’s said before:

The 2011 budget debate:

“My view of this is the following: I hope the supercommittee really does exceed expectations. My own expectations are not that high…we have a Congress that is there to do a job. How did we get to a supercommittee? I just don’t understand it.”

His 2011 campaign against political contributions:

“The fundamental problem is that the lens through which Congress approaches issues is reelection. The lifeblood of their reelection campaigns is political contributions.” Schultz concluded, “I am asking that all of us forgo political contributions until the Congress and the president return to Washington and deliver a fiscally disciplined long-term debt and deficit plan to the American people.”

The 2012 fiscal cliff debate:

“Rather than be bystanders, we have an opportunity—and I believe a responsibility—to use our company’s scale for good by sending a respectful and optimistic message to our elected officials to come together and reach common ground on this important issue,” wrote Schultz as he launched his first “Come Together” campaign.

Schultz also took a stand on guns:

“The ‘open carry’ debate [has] become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening,” wrote Schultz in an open letter to customers. “For these reasons, today we are respectfully requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas—even in states where ‘open carry’ is permitted—unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.”

While Schultz’s political statements may be good for business—Starbucks revenue increased 13% over the past quarter to $3.7 billion—his content-free posturing doesn’t appear to be as effective in Washington. As he once wisely said, “I’m not a politician. I’m not an economist. I run a coffee company.”